Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 16, 2022

Slade House, by David Mitchell

I confess to being just a little bit disappointed by Slade House.  I was keen to read it when I learned that it was a companion to The Bone Clocks, (see my review here) but Slade House turns out to be more of the same.  That is, the plot revolves around creepy people who steal the souls of others in order to achieve immortality.  There really isn’t much more to it than that.

Slade House, apparently, started as an experimental short story originally published in tweets and then expanded.  It draws on ideas from The Bone Clocks, and is constructed in the same way, like a connected set of short stories.  In each one the predators lure their victims, called Engifteds into Slade House, which isn’t really there in Slade Alley London, but is an ‘orison’, a fake world crafted to delude the victim.

Each story — separated by a period of nine years — is narrated by the victim/visitor to the house, beginning in 1979 with the precocious Nathan Bishop who visits with his mother to attend a recital by Lady Norah Grayer.  After a bit of a hunt, they find the small black iron door in a brick wall, and Rita Bishop goes inside to the recital while Nathan is befriended by a boy called Jonah. They play Fox and Hound, but end up inside where at the top of the stairs, the reader learns that Norah and Jonah are evil twins — and Nathan meets his doom.

The next section features a most unlikeable copper, making a desultory investigation into the disappearance of the Bishops because Fred Pink, a witness to their last sighting has just woken from a nine-year coma.  DI Edmonds fancies his chances with the current resident at Slade House, Ms Chloe Chetwynd, but he meets his doom too.

The next section reminded me of the undergraduates who feature in The Bone Clocks.  This lot form a Paranormal Society led by Fred Pink’s nephew Alex Hardwick, and they amuse themselves by investigating The Slade Vanishings. They start off in a pub called The Fox and Hounds, and progress to a Halloween party at Slade House, where someone has spiked the brownies with hashish.  Sally Timms, a needy social failure, is the victim.

Sally’s sister Freya turns up next in 2006, still feeling guilty about fobbing off her younger sister when she could have Made an Effort and maybe saved her from her fate.  Freya squeezes into her busy schedule an interview with Fred Pink, now elderly enough to be dismissed as a demented old codger.  Fred actually knows quite a lot about Norah and Jonah, but Freya fails to be convinced. You know what happens by now…

The last section is narrated by Norah now exposed as one of The Anchorites, (the bad guys) and this time her victim is Marinus, revealed as one of the Horologists (good guys) who fight the existential battle of good and evil in The Bone Clocks.

Slade House is quite entertaining, but it’s like those rewrites of ancient myths and fairy tales.  You know what’s going to happen, and there’s no new idea to think about. So I hope Mitchell writes something new soon.

Author: David Mitchell
Title: Slade House
Publisher: Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, 2015
ISBN: 9781473616684, hbk, 233 pages
Source: Kingston Library



  1. Hi Lisa! Catching up on my blog readings & have especially enjoyed your reviews of David Mitchell, one of my all time favorite authors (do you really have a photo of DM’s autographing your copy of Cloud Atlas? I’m filled with envy!). That being said, his science fiction has left me a bit cold. Like you, I enjoyed both The Bone Clocks and Slade House, but, as you say, the latter produced a “more of the same” kind of feeling for me. Sad to say, I’m not much tempted by his latest, Utopia Avenue.
    Although I’ve read most of Mitchell’s novels, I haven’t yet gotten to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which I’m saving for a dry spell (I just clicked on your review, which almost made me start it tonight!). I believe a de Zoet descendent is a character in Utopia Avenue . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the things I learnt between reading The Bone Clocks and then Slade House, when they first came out, is that Mitchell is creating an interconnected universe between all his books. There are recurring characters and themes.

      Learning this has made me reluctant to read his other books though, until that is, I have the time, space and energy to read them in chronological order in fairly quick succession, so that I can keep track of whose who and what’s what!

      Liked by 1 person

      • *chuckle* I don’t think I’d have the stamina to read ’em one after the other like that. TBH I don’t care if I miss some connections between characters, as long as I enjoy the story.


  2. It’s been a while since I read this book, so my memories of it are very sketchy, but I recall feeling disappointed by it, too. Some of the characters worked better than others for me, but I’d be hard pressed to remember much more about it…


    • Hi Jacqui:)
      I think I probably read it too soon after The Bone Clocks, so it seemed just like a prequel.


  3. I really liked this one, I think because I read it before Bone Clocks, which shouldn’t really have worked but did for me!


  4. I quite enjoyed this one, but I think that was partly due to the fact that I had heard many say that it was a little disappointing so my expectations were in check and I read it because I was yearning for a spooky house story. His longer works are almost overwhelmingly satisfying, so I think a short piece is bound to seem pale in comparison, but I love his patience with linking all his stories together.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good point, Marcie, that his longer works can lead to unreasonable expectations of a shorter work.
      Utopia Avenue is my next one:)


  5. Never mind, I really liked it, but we can’t all be the same, lol. What I will say is that you might give Utopia Avenue a miss. It was OK, but rather cold and wooden compared to the past output. Also, how anyone reading it could understand parts of it, due to Mitchell’s “Uber Novel” pretensions, I have no idea.


    • *chuckle* That sounds like a challenge!


  6. Whew, this sounds hard! I don’t think my mind is organised enough to stay on track with this book. I haven’t read Mitchell but did start Cloud Atlas before getting onto something else. I do think I might go back to it though.


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